Saint Olav(e)

 

1 - Scenes from the life of St Olav (Archbishops' Palace, Trondheim).JPG

On this day in 1030, the Norwegian King Olav II was killed fighting the Danish Vikings at the Battle of Stiklestad.  A year later, he was canonised by the  English Bishop of Selsey, Grimkell or Grimketel (the local canonisation was later confirmed by Pope Alexander III in 1164).

2 - Nidaros Cathedral (Trondheim).JPG

3 - Painting of interior of Nidaros Cathedral.JPG

In the later Middle Ages, Olav’s tomb, in the most northerly cathedral in Christendom, in Nidaros [Trondheim], became an important pilgrimage site, and the centre of a widespread “cult of Olav”.

6 - Stained glass window with St Olav in left panel, church of St Olave Hart Street

5 - Relief of St Olav, church of St Olave Hart Street

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4 - Mosaic of St Olave, site of former church of St Olave Southwark

Interestingly, a  number of churches in and around the City of London are  dedicated to St Olav(e), including St Nicholas Olave, St Olave Hart Street, St Olave Jewry and St Olave Silver Street in the City, St Olave in Southwark, and St Olave in Rotherhithe.

This is because, in 1014, Olav Haraldsson, as he then was, was an ally of the Saxon English, under Ethelred “The Unready”, in their fight against the against the Viking Danish, under Cnut, and he helped relieve  Saxon London from Viking occupation  (albeit only temporarily).

According to the Norse Sagas, he destroyed the Saxon incarnation of London Bridge, and the Viking army assembled on it poised to attack, by pulling it down with ropes tied to his long-boats.

The  court poet Ottar Svarte wrote, in the eleventh century, and Snorri Sturluson rewrote, in the thirteenth:

“London Bridge is broken down.

Gold is won, and bright renown.

Shields resounding, war-horns sounding,

Hild is shouting in the din!

Arrows singing, mail-coats ringing-

Odin makes our Olaf win!”

Many believe this to be the origin of the much-loved nursery-rhyme “London Bridge is falling down”.

Two of the churches dedicated to St Olave, namely, St Olave Jewry and St Olave Hart Street in the City, are visited on our “Dark Age London” themed special walk.

Further details of all our walks are available in the Our Guided Walks section of this web-site.

Bookings may be made through the “Contact/Booking” section of the web-site, or by e-mail (lostcityoflondon@sky.com).

2 thoughts on “Saint Olav(e)

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